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The Importance of Self-Portraiture

Those day-to-day snapshots are an important way to document memories and history. So, when was the last time you were in one?

Photographer Brooke Snow is passionate about the art of self-portraiture. She shares tips on how - and why! - moms should step in front of the camera more.

It was frustration that eventually led me to self-portraiture. Frustration and jealousy! I was excited about the images that I was creating both professionally, and personally, and kept telling my family "Do you know how lucky you are?! You can get fabulous images of you and your family compliments of me!"

But who was there to photograph me and my own family?

The challenge wasn't so much about not being willing to pay someone (I totally believe in hiring a pro for yearly portraits), it was more the frustration of the everyday things that happen. My heart is drawn to lifestyle photography and the storytelling power of photographing everyday life. I'm not going to have access to another professional every time we have a family gathering, go on a family adventure, or I just plain took the the time to get ready and put on a new dress for no special reason!

As I've come closer and closer to knowing who I am as a photographer and how I uniquely see the world, this longing has only increased - the longing to not just document how I see other people and their life and relationships, but how I personally see my own life.

My view of my family, my relationships, and even myself, will not be the same view as someone else. This isn't to say another person's perspective doesn't have as much value, it's just going to be different. And there is something deeply rewarding and enlightening behind uncovering your own vision of yourself and your family. After all, you know these relationships better than anyone.

Self-portraiture, for me, is loosely defined as any image that:

1. I create a vision for

2. That I'm in.

I don't care if someone else pushes the shutter button, or if other people are present in the photograph. Those two things alone should be considered an achievement!

Creating a Vision

This aspect of self-portraiture is the most opportune for growing as a photographer. Because you will be in front of the camera you must begin with some type of visualization of what you want an image to look like before you take it or set it up. This very exercise alone can be one of the most progressive experiences in developing your vision for when you shoot behind the lens! If you are practiced at having an image in mind previous to shooting and making it happen, you grow in developing a personal style, your creativity increases, and you are far more likely to be satisfied with your work because you know if you met your goal.

My eye for composition has also further developed by exploring self- portraiture. If I am shooting by myself, I seem to slow down more and notice any possible distractions as well as look for any strong composition elements within the environment that will draw the eye. I'm not distracted by already having a subject within the frame, so I learn to pay greater attention to everything else included.

Getting in the Shot

Getting in your images is helpful with a few handy tools.

1. A tripod. I never thought that I would love having a tripod since I typically don't use one when shooting professionally. But it has become invaluable to my self-portraiture being a positive experience and less frustrating.

2. A timer. One of my favorite features on my Nikon D7000 camera is the multiple shot timer feature. It allows me to set the timer for up to 9 shots at a time. This is so helpful in preventing the amount of times I have to run back and set the camera to fire again. It also helps me get a sequence of images, which has been invaluable to my vision of lifestyle images and capturing true interaction with me and my son. I can set up my composition, set the camera to fire a series of shots and simply interact and have a real experience instead of a staged one.

3. A remote. A remote can save you several trips back to the camera as well. I prefer this method for something less action oriented and less interactive.

4. 4. Manual Focusing. The most common technical challenge I face is focusing the image when I'm not actually in it! When other people are present I focus on them or have someone step into place of where I will be to focus the shot.

If I'm shooting alone I try to find something in the environment to place on the same focal plane of where I will be (a bucket, a jacket, something I can easily toss as soon as I run in!), set the focus on the temporary object with auto focus and quickly switch the lens to manual focus to make sure the focus is locked in place.

Self-portraiture can be a wonderful tool to help you grow as a photographer in developing your vision, improving your composition, and not to mention what a fun surprise it is to see what the image actually looks like! Playing both roles of photographer and subject is a challenge, but the payoff is well worth the effort.


Brooke Snow

Brooke is a lifestyle photographer in Northern Utah and creator of the Brooke Snow Online Photography Courses. She thrives in efficiency and the pursuit of an authentic life. Much of her creative energy is spent entertaining the adventures of her 2 year old son who teaches her to see the world for its wonder. Visit Brooke at http://blog.brookesnow.com /

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